Since mid-December I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions, both in terms of purpose and recognizing the cliché. Now that January is almost over, I thought I’d talk about making resolutions any time of year, and why January maybe isn’t the best time to start.
In typical English nerd fashion, I’ll start with a definition:
- a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
- a stereotype or electrotype. (What the heck is an electrotype, you say? No idea, so I looked it up)
This definition is the first thing that popped up when I went to Almighty Google for clarification. Alternative definitions include such phrases as “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect” (Wikipedia), “something that has become overly familiar or commonplace” (Merriam-Webster), and “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought” (Oxford). Note the abundance of the word “overused” and the idea that constant repetition can dissolve something of all meaning.
It seems to me that the most common resolutions are usually about weight loss, money, and time management. Though this statement isn’t based on any kind of real research, I feel confident saying this because of the articles and blog posts I’ve read over the years, and in witnessing the general trend of societal discontent regarding how we look, how much money we have, and how we spend our time (or lack thereof). Making resolutions about any of these things sounds like a good idea then – if we’re unhappy, we should fix it. But in making these resolutions year after year, January after January, we’re forced to face the reality that the necessary changes just aren’t being made. This is either because we cannot make the change due to circumstances beyond our control, or we’re just too lazy/busy/disinterested to follow through. Thus, we’re left with a general suspicion festering in the back of our minds that, though this year we think we’ll finally make things happen, we know things won’t really change and that’s just the way it is.
If New Year’s resolutions are always about the same thing (lack original thought), and making the resolution doesn’t actually achieve results (has no effect), then the whole process is just one giant cliché. And I think that’s sad.
Moreover, I have a problem with what this leads us to believe about our ability to achieve our goals in general. This whole process creates a mindset that will forever produce negative results because we grow accustomed to making the resolution and watching it fail. That’s “normal.” So we may start to believe that making resolutions is pointless.
Of course it’s NOT pointless, though. I can name a number of things I’ve done over the past 10 months that have changed me for the better, and they are all due to my goals for the year. That’s right, I made a list of resolutions for a year. So how am I any different, you say? Well, I didn’t start in January.
As simplistic a notion as it is, I think that’s made a difference. The time limit could be anything – a week, a month, 6 months, 2 years, 5 years, whatever – that doesn’t matter. The difference is that I made my list because of how I was feeling about my life at the time, not based on any outside influence telling me that I should be making a list simply because it’s that time of year. This, in turn, removed any possible stigma I may have associated with previously unaccomplished New Year’s resolutions. My list didn’t have anything to do with anyone or anything else. It was all me.
Now, I’m sure there are people who make New Year’s resolutions and typically follow through; there’re always exceptions to the rule. I think these people either don’t care about or don’t notice the societal stigma, and/or they’re just go-getters who likely accomplish a lot in all areas of their lives. That’s awesome and I’m stoked for them!
This is also not meant to imply that making goals any other time of the year will automatically result in success. Duh. But let’s get real – for lazy people like me (and maybe you) it’s helpful to understand the environment in which we live, and removing any possible inhibitor to success just helps! And one of those possible inhibitors is the cliché of New Year’s resolutions.
I guess it boils down to this: don’t make goals for the wrong reasons, because then you’ll never achieve them. Instead, make goals because you want to better yourself, because you’re motivated, and do it in a way that works for you. If you can ignore the New Year’s resolutions cliché then more power to you. For the rest of us… there are 11 other months to choose from, so why settle for January?